Documents Chronicle Toyota's Poor Decisions During Crisis
The latest news coming out of the crisis Toyota is facing is that a high level official pulled back the curtain on company execs, begging that the company come public about their impending recall issues.
In January, Irving Miller, then a group vice president for Toyota Motor Sales USA, wrote to another Toyota staff member via e-mail, "I hate to break this to you but we have a tendency for mechanical failure in accelerator pedals of a certain manufacturer on certain models...The time to hide on this one is over. We need to come clean."
Just three days later, Toyota succumbed to pressure and issued a recall on sticking pedals affecting millions of vehicles.
Miller's good intentions were disclosed in documents made public last week and came at the end of an hellish PR nightmare that went on for about four months. During that time, federal regulators say that Toyota deliberately kept information about possible defects from the government.
The documents Toyota provided to Congress and the Transportation Department show the steps the company took to juggle two recalls — one for the sticking accelerator pedals, the other for floor mats blamed for sudden acceleration problems.
According to reports, the documents clearly show that the company had ample knowledge of incidents of sticking pedals well before its recall. They also show Toyota treated consumers in the U.S. differently from those in Europe and Canada. On September 29, the day after regulators say Toyota promised to order a floor-mat recall, the company issued a safety advisory — a step short of a recall — to the owners of 3.8 million vehicles in this country. Toyota told those owners to remove the floor mats until the company came up with a solution.
On that very same day, Toyota told dealers in Europe that it was changing the way cars sold there were built, and outlined the repair procedures the dealers should follow, according to reports. Then, a week later, Canadian regulators issued a recall of more than 378,000 vehicles for the floor mat issue. All the while, the complaints about acceleration problems continued to pile up in the U.S. Toyota issued its recall for floor mats in the U.S. in the first week of November but did not outline the solution for several more weeks. By mid-December, transportation officials decided to fly to Japan to urge the company to act more quickly.Continued on the next page